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New 'Starship Troopers' Sequel Returns to Franchise's Roots

28 Jul, 2017 By: John Latchem

According to screenwriter Ed Neumeier, any similarities between the political intrigue in the new Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars and real life are purely coincidental.

“We wrote this before the last election,” Neumeier said. “I sort of had a story in mind about popularity and about propaganda and about people with different agendas at the top.”

Fathom Events will host a theatrical screening of Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars Aug. 21, with the movie released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Digital HD Aug. 22, followed by DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Sept. 19. A 20th anniversary edition of the original Starship Troopers also will be released on 4K UHD Blu-ray Sept. 19.

For the fifth “Starship Troopers” movie, the filmmakers looked to the roots of the franchise for inspiration — not just the 1997 movie directed by Paul Verhoeven, but also the original Robert A. Heinlein novel.

“The directors are also fans of the original film,” said producer Joseph Chou, speaking on behalf of director Shinji Aramaki and co-director Masaru Matsumoto. “There’s a lot of respect that’s given to what Paul Verhoeven did in his film. But at the same time they wanted to realize what they wanted to see in a new ‘Starship Troopers’ film, and I think immediately you see a lot of different elements that might have been missing from the film that were in the original novel, like, for example, the power suits. So I think it’s a mix of old and new and hopefully the audience will really enjoy what they’ve created.”

Aramaki also directed the previous film, 2012’s Starship Troopers: Invasion, which, as with Traitor of Mars, was made using CG-animation and motion-capture technology.

The first three films were live-action and all written by Neumeier, who directed the third one as well. Neumeier took a step back on Invasion, serving as executive producer, but returned to write Traitor of Mars, which also features the return of the original film’s Casper Van Dien to voice Johnny Rico, and Dina Meyer to voice Dizzy Flores.

“I knew a way I could bring the character of Dizzy Flores back in, who was killed in the first one, and I know I can do that in a way that’s not a cheat,” Neumeier said, on hand with the other filmmakers to promote the film July 22 at San Diego Comic-Con International. “The unfortunate thing is she died in the first one, and everybody liked her.”

The 1997 original film focuses on a group of high school friends — Johnny, Carmen, Carl and Dizzy — who join the military to fight a war against alien insects.

As the original film begins, Dizzy was in love with Johnny, who was in love with Carmen. Once they graduated from high school and went their separate ways, Dizzy ends up in the infantry with Johnny, and the pair enjoy a brief fling before she’s killed in combat. Carmen ends up as a pilot and starship captain, while Carl parlays his psychic abilities into a lofty career in military intelligence.

Neumeier recalled many of the challenges of adapting Heinlein’s book for that first movie.

“It was a daunting task because I read it when I was 13 and I thought it was the greatest book I had ever read, and I then I never thought about making it as a movie until Jurassic Park came out,” Neumeier said. “I always said it was sort of Tab Hunter and Sandra Dee go to space and fight giant bugs and become Nazis. And I kind of wanted it to be that kind of movie. There was a definite thing of wanting it to feel like a ‘B’ movie a little bit.”

Neumeier said the character of Dizzy was originally supposed to be a man, just another friend of Johnny’s in the first draft.

“Paul read the script and said we should make Dizzy a girl, and I immediately thought that’s a really good idea,” Neumeier said. “Then we had this kind of double triangle and it really emphasized the high schoolness of it all and for them.”

The new film finds Rico leading a squad, aided by old friends Carmen and Carl, to stop a bug invasion of Mars, where a human colony has been causing political headaches for the Federation with an independence movement.

“I wanted to have the original friends — one of them’s a general, one of them’s a captain, and he’s in the infantry,” Neumeier said. “But their friendship from high school is still important enough, that it’s these three getting back together again to save the Federation, from itself in this case.”

Neumeier’s intimate familiarity with the franchise was a huge selling point for the filmmakers.

“I think having Ed Neumeier, the original writer, joining in the project actually was a huge help to really keep things consistent, and also Casper’s presence as a main character also was important,” Chou said.

Van Dien previously reprised the role of Rico in 2008’s Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. While Van Dien served as executive producer on Invasion, a different actor voiced the character for that film, so he said returning to the role was a fun experience.

“The character’s 20 years older, I’m 20 years older, and he’s been through a lot, I’ve been through a lot, life experiences, we all go through this,” Van Dien said. “And to feel it and see it and to be a part of it is just awesome.”

Van Dien also enjoyed the reunion of sorts with Meyer.

“I [recorded it] in the room by myself, but I did go the day that Dina did it, and I went and I saw her and I said ‘hey’ to her,” Van Dien said. “She did such a great job bringing the character back to life again.”

Neumeier also took the opportunity to work in an action scene he had envisioned for one of the earlier direct-to-video sequels, but never had the time or budget to accomplish it — a one-on-one knife fight between Rico and a bug.

“Because the sequels were always made for a lot lower budget than we had the first time around, we were always trying to think of cheap ideas that we could do, and one of them that I thought of that I was never able to do was just Rico fighting with a bug by himself,” Neumeier said. “And we kind of wanted to do it in the third film. We didn’t have the time or the money to do it. So this was a way to do that that we got to do there.”

Van Dien agrees, calling the fight one of his favorite scenes in the new film.

“It was a fun thing because I remember us talking about the scene, and we were going to try to shoot the scene in the third one if we had the time or the money, and we just kept talking about it the whole film, and we never got to do it,” Van Dien said. “And then I saw it in this one and was like, ‘YES!’”

In addition, Neumeier said fans should really enjoy seeing the power armor as Heinlein might have envisioned it.

“It was beyond our means in the ’97 one. We just didn’t have enough money, and that was an expensive movie at that time,” Neumeier said. “I remember the producer saying we can have the bugs, or we could have the power armor. And then in the third movie we had a little tiny bit of power armor, but we didn’t have that much money. So I think to really imagine it you needed a guy like Shinji Aramaki. He’s one of the best mecha guys there is.”

Van Dien agreed fans would enjoy the power suits, but also thinks the tone of the film compares favorably with the original.

“Ed put the sense of humor back in,” Van Dien said. “He’s got the satire in it still. He has an interesting story, so it’s fun. I think he ties the book in, and it’s a great sequel. I think it’s the best sequel to the original film.”

About the Author: John Latchem

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